He was known as a “marriage wrecker”. People would dedicate every spare moment of their lives trying to catch his eye. He was huge, powerful, handsome and a legend of the scene. He was a big fish. Quite literally. He was massive.
When Britain’s largest mirror carp ‘Two Tone’ died on 14th August 2010, over 50 mourning anglers gathered lakeside to commemorate the fish’s long and celebrated life. Many of the grieving fishermen brought flowers to the lake at Conningbrook in Ashford, Kent where a memorial service took place and a small plaque was unveiled.
When Two Tone (so called because of his distinct half-and-half colouration) was last caught, the 45 year old fish weighed in at an impressive 67lbs 14oz and was thought to have died of natural causes when he was found dead in the lake he had called home for so long.
Two tone’s reputation as a “marriage wrecker” was no overstatement – some fishermen spent decades trying to catch the beast, neglecting their home lives as a result. Indeed, Two Tone is to blame for the breakdown of at least three marriages! Angling enthusiast Lee Jackson even wrote a personal memoir about his chase for the fish, entitled ‘Just for the Record; My Quest for Two Tone’ chronicling his extensive and exhaustive obsession.
Speaking to the Daily Express, Jackson said “I spent about 50 hours a week for six years trying to catch him before I did…For anyone who pursued Two Tone, it became an obsession for them and for those lucky enough to catch him it was the best day of their angling career.”
The owner of Two Tone’s home lake in Mid Kent Fisheries, Chris Logsdon, echoed Jackson’s sentiments. “Two Tone was the pinnacle of the angling world. Any carp angler worth their salt wanted to catch him and most tried and failed. People have spent their lives on that lake trying to catch him.” After taking over the fisheries from his father, he recalled how they had seen anglers from as far afield as Germany travelling to try their hand at catching the carp, with regular enquiries as to Two Tone’s size and weight coming in from Australia.
While I’m no angler myself, the more fish-minded among you may be keen to know that the methods used to catch Two Tone were varied. “Just in terms of weights, some people used a 3oz lead while others would only use an ounce-and-a-half because they wanted the fish to feel minimum resistance as certain older fish do learn what to stay away from. With bait, people used corn, worms, maggots, boilies, mussels, even salami – to catch a fish like that you have to think outside of the box. At the time there was 30 acres of lake – some of which was five metres deep – and about 50 fish, so it took a lot of time and expertise to catch any carp let alone Two Tone.”
In his later years, Two Tone only gave himself up once or twice a year at most, driving the obsession for so many dedicated fishermen. In his 45 years, the carp was only caught about 50 times. On the banks of the lake, so many men developed strong and long-standing friendships based on a universal drive for the elusive carp. As much as Two Tone will be missed, many regulars commented on how they would miss this mutual love of the chase.
On one message board a grieving angler wrote of Two Tone “A truly great fish and one that made a few dreams come true for those lucky enough to have him grace their net.” Regular visitor to the lakes, John Bird, called Two Tone’s death the “end of an era” following eight fruitless years spent trying to catch the carp.
Two Tone’s death briefly made national news with The One Show documenting the funeral and the fisheries receiving messages of condolence from around the world. Rather less celebratory, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) took out a substantial billboard advertisement close to the lakes, questioning the size of the angler’s “rods”.
But what was to come of Two Tone’s body? Now that’s a tricky tale in itself. Initially, they thought to bury the carp at a popular swimming spot called “Joe’s point”, intending to have a plaque mark a lasting memorial. However, they caught wind of a nefarious plot to disinter Two Tone under cover of darkness, taxidermy him and sell him to the highest bidder. Then, Fishery owner Chris Logsdon thought perhaps he should be presented to the Natural History Museum in London as a triumphant artefact. However, when the museum was contacted about this mighty catch, they dismissed Two Tone as little more than a common ‘trophy’, intending to place him in formaldehyde, out of public view, a prospect that angered the angling community at large.
To complicate things further, the leaseholders of the fisheries’ land were told of plans to build a housing development beside the lakes, which would result in the exhumation of Two Tone’s body. So what did they do? They stuck him in a freezer. And nearly 12 years on, that’s where old Two Tone still resides. Sadly, due to the adverse effects of power cuts and some fishy frostbite, it doesn’t look likely that Two Tone will be suitable for taxidermy after all. Until the owners receive confirmation that Two Tone’s prospective grave site will remain untouched, burial plans are decidedly on ice.
While Two Tone is gone, the community of Ashford still remember him through a variety of ways such as craft projects, including the distribution of a mini Two Tone knitting pattern for a local exhibition. While Two Tone was not the largest on record, his memory lives on, and according to recent sonar efforts, his successor may be swimming not too far behind him.
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